Church's Wealth in the Medieval Period
#1
I just started a history of music course, that primarily focuses on the medieval period.  Today in the first lecture, the professor stated that the Church was wealthy because people paid for indulgences.  She defined indulgences as people paying to be able to sin and still get into heaven.  I think this is incorrect and I would like sources for proving to her that she is wrong.

As an aside, Gregorian chant is her area of expertise and, when I told her there was a Latin Mass in the area at which chant is used, she seemed interested in attending.  She asked if she could keep the church bulletin which I had brought with me.  I could imagine her wanting to see chant in actual use during Mass.
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#2
This was the sin of Simony and it was denounced by the Church even though it was practiced by Churchmen in some areas. The Church never condoned Simony.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14001a.htm
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#3
(01-08-2013, 09:29 PM)CrusaderKing Wrote: This was the sin of Simony and it was denounced by the Church even though it was practiced by Churchmen in some areas. The Church never condoned Simony.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14001a.htm

Thanks.  I knew that it was not officially taught, but that does not prove it didn't happen.  Well, we know it did happen, but I doubt it was as widespread as the prof made it out to be.  I would like to find some evidence that it was relatively rare.
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#4
I think that the primary reason for the churches wealth was simply that Nobles and other wealthy persons would bequeath their possessions and property just as people continue to do to this day. Over time (centuries), Monastery's and Diocese would simply amass a large amount of property and valuables, given that they never had to pay taxes etc. Also when people joined religious orders, their families would generally give a large donation, a dowry of sorts, in order for them to be accepted.
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#5
The Church will give you an indulgence for committing a holy act that the Church has approved as granting an indulgence. Indulgences have always been for the remission of temporal penances for sin, not for the remission of sin itself.  During the middle ages the Church stated donating money to the Church for an approved cause would grant an indulgence.  This system worked fine and helped fund the creation of many Catholic schools, hospitals, and other charitable organizations.  

Unfortunately, there were abuses with religious orders claiming the right to grant indulgences when they did not or improperly explaining the purposes of indulgences to the laity. These acts were condemned by numerous Popes.

Abuse appears to have grown perspicaciously after the rebuilding of Saint Peter's basilica when Pope Leo X offered a grant of indulgence to those who would help cover the rebuilding. A German Dominican by the name of Johann Tetzel appears to have aggressively sold indulgences and claimed one could buy oneself into heaven by purchasing indulgences.  This scandalized an obscure German Monk by the name of Martin Luther who then attacked the system of indulgences.

However, it should be noted that we only have Luther's account of Tetzel, and Tetzel died in good standing with the Church (although he appears to have had his public ministry ended). Given Luther's tendency to exaggerate and misrepresent his opponents it's possible Tetzel was innocent of the charges Luther accused him of.

The Council of Trent reaffirmed the practice of indulgences and the power of the Church to decide what activities could grant indulgences (thus including making donations).  However, shortly thereafter to prevent abuses the Church ended the practice of granting indulgences for charitable donations.  However, the Church to this day retains the power to change this policy.  
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#6
Here is something from the Baltimore Catechism on indulgences. It is important to note that indulgences are not forgiveness of sins, but rather the remission of temporal punishment due to sin.

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resour...dulgences/



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#7
Here is the latest decree on indulgences by Pope Paul VI on indulgences.
:) :) :)

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=468
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#8
(01-08-2013, 09:39 PM)DoktorDespot Wrote: I think that the primary reason for the churches wealth was simply that Nobles and other wealthy persons would bequeath their possessions and property just as people continue to do to this day. Over time (centuries), Monastery's and Diocese would simply amass a large amount of property and valuables, given that they never had to pay taxes etc. Also when people joined religious orders, their families would generally give a large donation, a dowry of sorts, in order for them to be accepted.

Also if a layman died intestate, his lands would escheat to his immediate feudal superior. Since the Church is a perpetual corporation this could never happen with Church lands. Plus, if a layman died with heirs, there was usually feudal due that accrued to his lord when the land passed. Since the Church does not die, this could never happen
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#9
(01-08-2013, 09:07 PM)JayneK Wrote: I just started a history of music course, that primarily focuses on the medieval period.  Today in the first lecture, the professor stated that the Church was wealthy because people paid for indulgences.  She defined indulgences as people paying to be able to sin and still get into heaven.  I think this is incorrect and I would like sources for proving to her that she is wrong.

She needs to clarify what she means when she said "the Church was wealthy." 

The papal court was, at certain times, wealthy, in the same way Washington DC or London is today.

Some monasteries and convents were wealthy. 

Most parishes were poor, and the priests who staffed them were poor and had to grow their own food just like everyone else.  Two sources that make this point very powerfully are the medieval poems Piers the Plowman and the Canterbury Tales.  The parish priest and the peasant are not lampooned by Chaucer.

Regarding the sources of monastic wealth, one has to compare the wealth of the middle ages with the late Roman period.  If you could return to medieval Europe, you would recognize the names of the towns and cities of most of the countries.  Not so if you could return to Europe of Justinian.  You would have seen a fraction of the domestic ones.  You could have had a beer with Chaucer, but not with St. Martin of Tours.   

Most of Europe then was still heath, forest, swamp and wasteland.  What happened in the intervening five centuries was the growth of monasticism, where tremendous advances in agriculture, animal husbandry and  food production took place.  It was from the monasteries that writing replaced the oral culture of Northern and Western Europe.  The monks figured out how to drain the low lying areas, how to improve the livestock, how to preserve and prepare new types of food.  Cities grew up around the larger monasteries, especially in the Germanies.  That's why there is a monk on the city crest of Munich.  To critisize the monasteries for retaining and using the wealth that they created is somewhat like critisiz\sing Silicon Valley for being wealthy because so much computer development happens there. 

The Church was also wealthy because, as part of the organized government of the times, it received its tithe.  The amount it received as a percentage of income (or produce, since most of it was paid in kind) was less than half of the average tax rate in the US, and probably less than a fourth of modern European countries like Scandinavia and now, France.  Unlike the crown and ducal governments, however, the Church generally did not waste its income on waging war.  A modern equivilent would be the disparity between the budget deficit of the US compared with Switzerland.  Switzerland has not attempted to teach Afghanistan how to vote at the muzzle of a rifle.  Put simply, the Church invested her income in things that were profitable, while royal governments did not.

Regarding your professor, please recall that it is her job, as a professor holding a degree, to know what she is talking about and prove her sources.  You are paying for her knowledge, not her ignorance.  Unfortunately, her statement sources from protestant and enlightenment era mythmaking rather than sources.  For your purposes, get hold of books by Johann Huizinga. 


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#10
If it makes you feel any better, I had a prof who confused confession in a court of law with sacramental confession and the development of private confession in the Middle Ages in particular.  Despite being presented with substantial documentation, she maintained her ridiculous stance.  Serves me right for taking a class I could have taught . . .
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